If you’re looking for a new way to spice up your core routine, look no further than hanging leg raises. The body burn exercise works multiple abdominal muscles while building upper and lower body strength (hip flexors, grip, and forearm), according to Shelly MayfieldCPT, co-owner of Studio Diva in New Jersey. This makes hanging leg raises a great finisher for your next gym session or a regular part of your core routine.
Wondering how exactly a hanging leg lift works? Basically, you’re hooking up and hanging from a pull-up bar, then lifting your feet off the ground, flexing and extending your spine to work your abs, Mayfield says. You can do hanging leg raises anytime you want to train your core, says Ashley RiosCPT, CEO of Fitness by Ashley. Aiming for three times a week is enough to feel the burn and see baseline results, Mayfield says.
Meet the experts: Shelly Mayfield, CPT, is co-owner of Studio Diva in New Jersey and also a certified yoga instructor. Ashley Rios, CPT, is the CEO of Fitness by Ashley in New York.
If you’ve never done hanging leg lifts before, you definitely want to get all the info before trying them IRL. (Otherwise, you might hurt yourself, folks!) Get ready to hang out and work your abs.
How to Do Hanging Leg Raises with Proper Form
- Hold the pull-up bar pronated. Keep arms fully extended and legs straight. (This can be an official pull-up bar or any gym bar high enough off the floor so your feet don’t drag.)
- Brace your core and bend your hips to lift your straight legs to 90 degrees, or as high as you can go. (If this is your first time trying this exercise, focusing on form and the height will come with strength and practice.)
- Once you reach your highest point with your legs at or near 90 degrees, slowly lower your legs back to their starting position with as much control as possible. Do not swing to initiate the leg movement. You want your hip flexors and core to do the work, not the momentum. He is a representative.
Pro Tip: Add a deep cool-down and stretch to release your hip flexors and spine after your entire workout or immediately after your sets of hanging leg raises, Mayfield recommends.
Benefits of Hanging Leg Raises
There are many basic exercises, but hanging leg raises offer unique benefits. Here are the main benefits, according to trainers:
- Improves grip strength. Since you’re gripping the bar with your hands and holding your full body weight while doing this exercise, you’re also improving grip strength, Rios says. It can help you improve your performance in other exercises that require a barbell and regular activities that require you to crush, pinch, and carry in your daily life.
- Strengthens the hip flexors. Hanging leg raises also help you improve your hip flexor strength, since you’re leaning into your hips throughout the exercise, Mayfield says. Increasing the strength of your hip flexors can help improve your posture and relieve any tightness or immobility you may feel in your hips from sitting at a desk all day. (Hip mobility exercises can also help.)
- Works multiple abdominal muscles. “This is one of the best exercises for strengthening your entire rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis,” says Mayfield. Hanging leg raises work both the part of your abs that’s visible (six pack) *and* your deepest core, so you get a 360-degree approach to your middle.
Common Hanging Leg Lift Mistakes to Avoid
Here are the typical slip-ups people make when performing hanging leg raises that can make the move less effective or increase your risk of injury, and how to fix them.
1. You don’t raise your legs high enough. While it’s difficult for some to bring their legs up to a 90-degree angle during this move, you should try to get them as close together as possible, Mayfield says. “Otherwise, you’re just working your hip flexors, not any other potential muscles, which can create tension,” Mayfield says.
To fix: Modify your movement and lift with bent knees – you’ll get more height and make sure you’re working the muscles you want.
2. You swing on the bar. Yes, sometimes people get lost in the motion and start swinging their legs, creating too much momentum, Mayfield says. This move means you’re not actually engaging your core.
To fix: Focus on pulling your navel in and curving through your spine and moving with control instead of rocking, says Mayfield.
3. You don’t stretch afterwards. This can be an intense exercise that works the whole body, so it’s important to cool down and stretch after you complete the hanging leg raises, Mayfield says.
To fix: Whether you spend 10 minutes in a light jog or take the time to specifically stretch your hip flexors and abs, incorporating light movement after your workout will ensure you don’t feel any uncomfortable tightness or tightness. wound.
Modifications and Variations of the Hanging Leg Lift
Let’s be real: while hanging leg raises sound like a super fun way to work your core (it’s kind of like doing monkey bars as an adult, hah), they’re also hard. If you need a few modifications to make this exercise actually work for you, don’t worry. Below are simple ways to make hanging leg raises more accessible.
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- Bend your knees. Yes, it’s completely normal to not be able to fully lift your legs while stretched. To make this move more accessible, try bending your knees when you stand up so you’re still reaching 90 degrees (or close to it) but without dealing with the added strain of keeping your legs straight, Mayfield says.
- Use a captain’s chair. While hanging leg raises are typically performed while *literally* hanging* from a pull-up bar, you can also complete them in what’s called a captain’s chair, Mayfield says. You’ll find it in the gym and it looks like a bottomless chair, with armrests on the sides to rest your forearms on while you hang. You’ll complete the hanging leg raise as normal when using a captain’s chair — it just takes the pressure off your grip and upper body, Mayfield says. In this position, you hold your weight from your shoulders, which tend to be stronger.
Are you not looking to facilitate hanging leg lifts, but rather to take up a challenge? I understood too. Here’s how to level hanging leg raises to amp up your sweat session and energize your core.
- Add free weights. Stick a light dumbbell or other free weight between your feet before you get off the floor to add extra resistance, Rios says. You’ll still do the same movement as before, but you’ll exert more effort lifting your legs off the floor and stabilizing your core with the added weight.
- Take him to the ground. Not all leg lifts need to be suspended. If you want to keep this workout fresh while working relatively similar muscles, try lying on your back instead of hanging onto the bar, Mayfield says. Keep your arms at your sides or above your head (for higher difficulty) and do what is essentially a reverse crunch, pulling your knees towards your chest, flexing your core and lifting your hips off the floor, said Mayfield. Again, feel free to add weights to this movement to increase the effort if needed.
- Use a resistance band. If you want to add a challenge without weights, try incorporating resistance bands instead, Rios says. To do this, attach the resistance band to the base of your bar so that it hangs down, then position your feet so that they rest inside the band and pull it lower, creating tension. From here, you will complete the hanging leg raise as normal. As you lower your legs (usually more than your resting point in the exercise), you will encounter resistance from the band which will make it harder for you to return to the starting point.
How to add hanging leg raises to your routine
So how often should you do hanging leg raises? When it comes to frequency, Mayfield says it’s good to incorporate basic moves like hanging leg raises into every workout. If that sounds daunting, aim for three times a week, she adds.
Exactly when you perform hanging leg raises during your workout really depends on your “training style, individual goals, and training frequency,” Rios says. Hanging leg raises can be done at the end of a lift session, during a circuit, or mixed in with supersets, Rios says.
Work it in: Start with two to three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions of hanging leg raises. Rest for a minute or two between sets. Do the move three times a week.
Try a few reps and you’ll instantly know they’re intense. “Hanging leg raises are an advanced movement, so I would start small and add more reps and sets as you master the form,” says Rios.
Madeline Howard is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and creator. His work has been published in Esquire, Nylon, Cosmopolitan, etc. Among other things, she was previously the editor of Women’s Health. Subscribe to his “hey howie” newsletter at madelinehoward.substack.com.
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